Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


7 Comments

Don’t Just Do Something… Sit There!

I went to see Bill (my spiritual director) today. We were discussing the lifting of my depression, but the trade-off being more angst-filled. Stuff like, what the heck is this all for anyway? Keeping it together so that you can keep it together for another day so you can keep it together for another day kind of thing. We talked about how I have never avoided pain in my life, always dealt with it head-on. Without realizing it, I think I assumed there would be some sort of pay-off eventually. So far, it’s just been another helping of tough stuff to deal with. At 48, I’m ready to move on to something new.

Anyhow, we didn’t solve the problems of the world, but we decided to start doing some meditation/prayer type stuff in session. I don’t do so well with it on my own, so if we do it together, I can probably practice it more easily at home. It was simple, interesting stuff, so I thought I would pass it along to you. Each of them were only one to two minutes long.

Exercise One:
Just sit there. Sit there quietly and just see what happens. Not for a long period, but just see what happens. I close my eyes when I do these kinds of things because it’s just easier for me. So I sat there and I was surprised that I was actually blank for a few minutes before the train left the station. Then it was, “Oh, I have to blog today. Maybe I should blog about sitting here.” And then my mind just goes from there.

Exercise Two:
Similar to the first exercise, you sit quietly but this time you actually count how many thoughts you have. I had six. I thought that was a lot, but Bill had six too. I don’t remember all of his, but his were:
1- Here. I’m just here.
2- Darcy. She’s here too.
6- Here. Here I am.

Mine were:
1- Nothing to start.
2- Have to call my friend as soon as I leave to confirm plans.
3- It’s blog day and I don’t know what to blog about.
4- I’m really hungry.
5- I wonder if that new guy I’ve been texting will contact me or not.
6- Nothing again. Can I count that twice?

Exercise Three:
Counting breaths. I had eight. Bill had three.

Does it all sound kinda goofy and pointless to you? It sounds funny to me as I write it. But when I was there, it was really cool. The object is to diminish your numbers. The goal is to be able to sit with blankness. For cripe’s sake, it was only a minute but it seemed like forever. The goal is to get your thoughts down to one or zero and be able to be empty. And the goal is to get your breaths down to three or less. Bill says the practiced monks can get down to one. That’s crazy.

Anyhow, I’m actually gonna try this the next few days. I asked him if the goal was also to increase the time you do it and he kind of chuckled. Typical question from someone like me. He said the goal is for time to be meaningless.

He doesn’t know a whole lot about acupuncture, and neither do I for that matter. But I told him it’s interesting that the big goal of those treatments is to relax. She puts a thousand needles in my body, then turns the lights off and tells me to take a nap. The more nothing I feel, the better. Hmmm… do you ever have the universe send you consistent messages?

So another paradox. Finding meaning in my life apparently requires me to conquer being empty. And yet the ultimate goal is to feel less empty. Weird. Maybe I’m just a quack that is hanging out with a bunch of quacks. But I’m liking it.

If you attempt any of these exercises, please feel free to share your stories. I’m fascinated! Really folks, it’s safe to try it at home. Just sit and try to be empty.

Crazy.


1 Comment

Courage and Willingness

My friend Summer gave me a pack of gratitude cards for Christmas. She thought they would be helpful for me on Thursdays when I didn’t have a blog idea. They are written by Julia Cameron. I broke it open today and read about “synchronicity,” which describes looking for the card being just what you need for that day, being aware of how it dovetails with other messages and thoughts you are receiving.

The first card said, “I have the courage to desire my good…” I had just returned from my spiritual direction session, where we talked about praying things like, “Make me willing to be willing.” Very similar idea. And that conversation was sparked by a thought that hit me hard over the weekend.

I recently started acupuncture treatments. I know little about it theory wise, but I know that I haven’t tried it before. And I know I’ve read and heard about some great successes with long-term depression. The critic in me thinks I am just grasping at another straw to get me out of my life-long funk. The optimist in me thinks what is the alternative? The alternative is to accept that life is as good as it gets. For me, life has been waking up every morning feeling like I have a large quantity of lead on my chest, literally weighing me down. It makes getting up each day a very tall order. Well, I refuse to accept that is my life and how it is going to be. So in spite of the expense and my skepticism, I “signed on” for acupuncture.

It hit me over the weekend that I needed to start praying something new. For those of you that haven’t struggled with depression, it may sound a bit nutty to you. Those of you that have, will probably completely get this. I started to pray that if the depression truly begins to leave, that I would be in a place where I am genuinely ready to accept a life without it.

That might sound crazy, but I can’t remember a time when I haven’t had that dark cloud hanging over my head. My identity has been “the depressed one” for so long, that I can’t imagine who I would be without it. The doc didn’t need to hear my long, sad story. She just wanted the summary. That is this: I’ve struggled with depression since about age 21. I’ve managed it with medication quite well for over 20 years. But the last four years have kicked my ass and I find I’m no longer able to manage it.

She seems confident that treatment is going to help. She even thinks I won’t need medication at all when she is done. Really? I’ve used it for over 25 years. I don’t even have a vision for that.

That’s why I’m praying my new prayer. If a life without depression is on its way, I want to recognize it when it comes. I don’t want to sabotage it. I want to embrace it.

Synchronicity? Yep. I came up with my prayer/task all on my own. Then my spiritual director confirmed it with, “being willing to be willing.” Then my gratitude card confirmed it with, “having the courage to desire my good.”

BRING IT ON!!


1 Comment

Prayer

I’ve started talking to a new spiritual director. This is the first time I’ve worked with a male, although I’m not sure that matters. Anyhow, his name is Bob and he seems a bit more traditional. He gave me a booklet that he wrote about dozens of ways to bring prayer into your life. Last week, I went to Vegas for two nights with my friend Ann from Chicago. I started to read his book on the way to the airport and tried to implement some of his ideas.

The first was called the “flash” prayer. When people/ideas come across you (in any way whatsoever), just do a quick prayer. So I thought about that and found that it was pretty easy to come up with prayers at any second of the day. I boarded the plane and DUH! How about praying for the pilots? I’m sure lots of people do that when traveling in the air, but I have been out of the habit.

When switching planes, I was stuck in the waiting area. The TV was on and there were the repetitive stories about some of the NFL players and their recent problems with domestic violence. I had been watching the stories for days and had fleeting thoughts and comments, but mostly know what a terribly complicated topic it all is. Child and spousal abuse has been around since human beings have been around and it is hard to understand how it all happens. Instead of watching the footage yet another time, I decided to send up a flash prayer for all of them and their families.

What else is on TV these days? Isis. War. Again, concepts I can’t even begin to understand or offer any kind of intelligent opinion on to discuss with other people. I have zero idea on how to make all that madness stop. And again, it hit me. Why not just send out a flash prayer? I felt so much better after doing that. I can’t contribute anything meaningful to a solution, but somehow I felt helpful by offering up small prayers.

Completely unrelated to the prayer topic, I was sitting in the waiting area and chatting with a bunch of 20 something year olds. A woman was talking about seeing a very old woman get her knitting needles taken away at security because they could be considered dangerous weapons. That somehow streamed into a conversation about what happens to dogs and cats that travel on planes, which then somehow led into the idea that all the cats are probably in the cockpits with the pilots. It got sillier then imagining the pilots who are, of course, allergic to cats and sneezing while trying to fly the plane. Then one guy triumphantly announced how that explains the bumpy flights. “FURBULANCE” is the correct term, rather than turbulence. Ok, so we were all pretty tired, but it was funny at the time.

Back to prayer suggestion number two. That one was called “signal” prayers. The idea is to pick some sort of signal that you come across several times a day to remind you to pray. I came up with my text notification. I have it set for that little bell that goes off. My one client always says, “Tink? Is that you?” which cracks me up every time. So I figured that every time I hear the tinkle, I will say a flash prayer. Then I thought I was smarter than anything when I combined the two kinds of prayer in my smart, little head. I will say a flash prayer for whoever texts me! I was feeling proud of myself for that one.

What a timely thing to have happen. I got a text this morning that absolutely deserved a prayer. My son Colin is looking for a used car so he gave me the ads he had circled. I called the first one and the car was already gone. No surprise because it was a great deal. The second ad had a phone number that said it was for texting. So this morning I texted the number and I quote: “Do u still have the car?” While meeting with my spiritual director, I got a response back. It said, and I quote: “Stop F*****G bugging (me) you dumb A*S B**CH.” Whoa. I was shocked. Then I laughed. I decided not to respond, just say a little prayer. They paid for an ad to sell a car, put their phone number in, and then responded like that to a request. Holy cow. You gotta laugh, right?

If you have any good prayer stories, feel free to share them. And if you know of any good used cars for sale, send me a text. A nice one, please.


2 Comments

Acceptance

I saw Ellen, my spiritual director, yesterday. Sometimes we have conceptual type conversations. They are intriguing and thought-provoking, but I’m also a nuts and bolts girl so I want to know in the end what it all means in practical terms.

We were talking about pursuing. Pursuing _____ (fill in the blank). Pursing whatever it is you want, desire, are trying to accomplish, etc.. Pursuit requires drive and energy. In and of itself, pursuit is not a negative thing. BUT… what happens when pursuing becomes the end vs. the means to an end? Ellen said sometimes we get stuck in the pursuit. If we pursue something for long enough, we don’t even remember how to actually get there.

The end of pursuit is acceptance. In this context, acceptance is more like receiving. How do I receive what I am looking for? If all of my energy is in the pursuit, where is the energy I need to accept what I’m looking for?

This ties in to being aware of accepting what you already have. Being aware and receiving what is in your grasp, even if it’s not the thing you are or have been pursuing.

I think (and have been affirmed by many over the years), that for the most part, I do a pretty good job with awareness. I don’t usually forget how lucky I am with so much of what I already have at my fingertips. But it can’t hurt to make a more conscious effort, right? Another well-known phrase for this is, having an “attitude of gratitude.”

So I’m taking today’s blog to think about accepting some of the gifts I already have. I’m setting pursuit aside and going into “reception mode.”

I am very grateful for my kids. Frankie gives me gray hair on a daily basis as I worry endlessly about not balancing all the things I need to help him be well-rounded. I want him to be carefree but yet responsible. I just got another email from a teacher again today. He talked about how Frankie is truly one of a kind. He stands out. And he does. And I beam with pride every time I hear it.

My other kids are great too. They are all adults now and starting to raise their own kids. They have all changed and grown so much over the years. I can’t imagine my life without them and my beautiful grandkids.

I am blessed with health. Other than struggling with weight (for my entire life), my aches and pains are pretty minor now that I’ve seen what can really happen to a person’s body. I might complain about my aching muscles, but how lucky am I to have the energy to exhaust myself every day?

Having witnessed for many years how other families interact and operate, I am most grateful for mine. With all our idiosyncracies aside, we love each other and try to do the right thing for each other. When one of us is down and out (and it seems like it’s usually me), we are there for each other.

I am told on a frequent basis that I have an exceptional amount of exceptional friends. I know it is absolutely true. Some of my friends have been around for ages. Some are newer. Some have recently been re-kindled again. I just had visitors today from Chicago that I hadn’t seen in a decade. All of them warm my heart, and on a very, very deep level.

My publishing company rocks. We work our butts off. We haven’t figured out how to make a lick of money, but the three of us all bring unique talents to the table. Our company just wouldn’t work if one of us wasn’t there. We need each other, and we are skilled and gifted. Not everyone gets to say that about their work.

My clients bless me. Honestly, most of the time I feel like I benefit more from knowing them than they do from knowing me. I love when people are trying to make their lives better, their relationships closer, etc.. And I get to be a part of it. Amazing.

So… I publicly declare to put more and more effort into acceptance. Pursuit is not evil, but I promise to put less and less effort into my driven nature and relax more into receiving. Try it, you might like it too. 🙂


4 Comments

Nickels

I had a spiritual direction session with Ellen yesterday. As usual, she impressed and amazed me. She always says things like “But you do all the work, Darcy” and I remind her that she is the one that challenges me, says things in certain ways that get me to think, and puts things into perspective. I almost always walk away from her office with more clarity and peace than when I walked in. She has a sign on her door that says “Hokey Pokey Clinic, where you can turn yourself around.” I love it!

Yesterday I walked away with a new therapeutic intervention that I can’t wait to try with a client when the appropriate time to use it arises. It was so simple and yet so brilliant. And of all things, it involved a nickel.

I was struggling with a decision I had to make. With all my conscious mind, the choices truly seemed equally plausible. So my mind wasn’t making it clear. When people would say, “What does your heart tell you?” I realized that my heart was failing me as well. I am usually pretty in tune with my instincts, but this time I was not getting any direction with that either. For all intents and purposes, I just couldn’t figure it out.

We did the usual therapeutic things. We talked about how the pressure to decide things was purely internal for me. There were no outside forces that were pressing me to figure things out. It was just my usual over-analyzing, intensely feeling self that was keeping me awake at night and feeling anxious through the day. We discussed my self-concept and all that stuff. It appeared during the first half of the session, that I needed to be comfortable with not making a decision. I sat with that for a while and “tried on” being okay with it. I was surprised by my ability to do it.

Later on though, things shifted again. As we continued to process things, Ellen said she remembered a powerful intervention she saw at a lecture she attended. She left the room and came back with a nickel.

She said when things are truly equal, you really can just toss a coin. Either decision would be fine and no matter where the coin lands, it will be okay. So she said “Heads will mean this, tails will mean this,” and she tossed it in the air. Before she revealed the coin, she looked at me and said “Tell me what you are thinking in this exact moment.” And I blurted out without hesitating what I thought my decision should be.

It was really amazing. It was an emotional shift. When that coin was up in the air, I couldn’t believe the flood of thoughts that went through my mind in those seconds. If it was heads, how would I feel? If it was tails, how would I respond? And suddenly, after hours of pondering, it was clear what I should do. And by the way, the actual coin toss showed the same decision I blurted out. I know it’s just chance, but it felt like confirmation anyway.

Brilliant. I love spiritual direction and therapy and figuring out the human mind and heart. It’s fascinating!


2 Comments

Punctured Foundations

foot xray

So it’s Frankie’s birthay and I’m doing the yardwork to prepare and I step on a small but deadly piece of wood. Had to call 911 and then go to the emergency room. It was stuck in my foot for a couple of hours before they could remove it. I was like the local freak show. People kept stopping in to ask if they could look because it was so bizarre. Nails go in two inches all the time, I’m sure. The problem was that the wood was still attached, and as you can see by the x-ray, there were about 5 other rusty nails sticking out too. When they tried to do anything, they risked puncturing me again.

Eventually they got it out. I won’t even try to describe the pain. I missed about an hour of Frankie’s birthday party but my ya-yas had pulled everything together like they usually do. By the next night my foot was infected and I was back in the emergency room. A big fat shot in the butt later, I am on the mend. I had to include the picture because just saying I stepped on a nail doesn’t quite describe it.

The interesting thing, is that this event catapulted a whole bunch of dynamics in my life with different people. When I went to see Ellen, my spiritual director, I walked into the office already crying. Took me awhile to compose myself before I could even talk. It’s too hard to describe the process of spiritual direction so I won’t even try, but eventually I ended up in the treatment room.

She said the image she got related to my foot, which of course wasn’t surprising. She talked about how the foot is the foundation, and my foundation had literally been punctured. A puncture wound is harsh. It’s not like a sprain, but a bit more violent sounding and feeling. My foundation had been turned around, like the earth was in the sky and the sky was on the earth.

It was a tough conversation in many ways while I tried to get a grip on what she was talking about. I knew when I walked in that I felt like I was spilled all over the place and needed to be regrouped and put back together. One of the things that we finally came to was a conversation about who I am in the world. Who I want to be, my primary purpose. Bottom line? I want to be a positive force in the world, someone who is part of the solution and not the problem. As corny as it sounds, I want the world to be a better place because I’ve been in it. My starting place is in the home raising my family. Then the circles keep widening after that.

So I need to not lose that focus somehow. And I need to surround myself with people who understand my vision, support it, bring out the best in me. And all of that is grounded in the foundation of the understanding that ultimately it is about God’s love that breathes life into it. I’m still struggling, but I’m trying to flip the foundation back, slowing letting the wound heal.


2 Comments

Patterns and Such

I saw my spiritual director Ellen again today. She is a calm soul. No matter how chaotic I feel when I go there, I end up leaving feeling more sane. I told her today she is like a “deep breath.”

Today we were talking about various subjects and I realized that it was pretty obvious that I choose the same type of thinking in many areas of my life. For lack of a better word, we were talking about openness.

For those who know me, they would laugh at me saying I’m a bit anal. A bit OCDish. They would laugh at the “bit” part. But on the other hand, I am very open and flexible which is kind of an odd mixture.

It starts with my dog Taffy. Frankie gets frustrated with me because Taffy runs away regularly. Ultimately, it is my fault because I don’t leash her very often. It is a little embarrassing because when your dog runs away a couple of times a week, you leash her, right? If she ever got hit by a car or something, I would never forgive myself. Frankie would never forgive me. Keeping her on a leash is actually for her own good, right?

But I can’t stand to leash her. We go in the creek or the woods almost every day. Most of the time she doesn’t go far. She just likes to sniff around, hunt a little, and then trot to catch up and will go ahead of me for awhile. If she chases a duck, deer, or rabbit (or whatever!) she runs so fast and free. She loves her little life. She loves her independence. It’s not that she wants to run away from me, I don’t think. She is my shadow. I can’t even go to the bathroom without her being next to me. But she just loves to be free and go at her own pace.

The trade-off is, that if she runs, I really can’t be mad at her. I get mad at her anyway though and I have spent countless hours talking with her. I explain clearly that if she likes to be off the leash, then she can’t run away. I think she is listening intently but she obviously doesn’t understand.

So am I reckless? Irresponsible? I hope not. I choose to be “hands off” as much as possible and most of the time it’s not a problem. But the price is when she runs I have to worry and run around like a big goof looking for her. I have to deal with Frankie being disgusted with me. But when I see her run in all her glory, I have to admit, it’s worth it. My “parenting”style has its drawbacks, but it sure has its good moments too.